Until recently, Senegal was considered as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. The country has had a very progressive and peaceful democracy for many years with regular, free and fair elections for decades. Election observers have always given a clean bill of health to the electoral process in that country.
Many times, there have been a peaceful change of government and a transition from one leader to another which has been the envy of many countries in the sub-region. This has gone on from the time of President Leopold Sedar Senghore to Abdou Diouf, Abdoulaye Wade and now President Macky Sall. This has been observed by many with wonderment considering the volatile nature of the region the country finds itself.
What is it that the country has as an edge over its many somewhat volatile neighbors? One may speculate that it is the high level of education of the population. The French, whatever their shortcomings, made education a very important aspect of their national life and this has been ingrained in the Senegalese psyche, so to speak.
Another important factor may be the freedom of speech that is enjoyed in Senegal. The free press that has been educating the masses in that country has played a pivotal role in raising the consciousness of the people to such an extent that no political leader can take them for a ride. Even the farmer in the remotest part of Senegal has a very good grasp of politics and takes part in the democratic process.
However, the past decade and a half has seen deterioration in that aspect of Senegalese lives. When President Abdoulaye Wade wanted to prolong his presidency by running for a third term, all hell broke loose as it were. The consciousness of the Senegalese people was tested and a new breed of leaders rose to oppose him. There were riots in the country and many people lost their lives. There was looting and wanton destruction of property everywhere.
From the ashes, so to speak, President Macky Sall arose and gave the country a new direction. Supporters hailed him as the savior of the country citing the many development achievements he made. But critics accused him of being too dictatorial with rampant corruption and nepotism seeping into his government. This caused a lot of challenges for his government.
It is the criticism of this tendency and the corruption which was being highlighted that catapulted opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko to the limelight and he became a rising star especially in the eyes of the youth of that country. His firebrand type of politics, using the anti-French sentiments, he made a name for himself. This however led to many protests which resulted in many losses of life and property.
Now, his party has been dissolved and he is in prison. What will the population do about it and how will the state react? Will they descend into chaos losing the enviable record of the country? Or will they use common sense to come out of the political quagmire they find themselves in?
Let us hope and pray that it will be the latter.